Ancient Egypt Facts
- Beginning: 3100 BC
- End: 332 BC
- Geography: Northeastern Africa
- Government: Ruled by Pharaohs
- Gods: Ra, Amun, Isis, Anubis
- Animals: Cattle, sheep, goats, pigs
- Languages: Old Egyptian, Middle Egyptian, Late Egyptian, Demotic
- History: Peaked during the New Kingdom between 16th century BC and 11th century BC
- Rivals: Assyrians, Babylonians, Macedonians, Nubians
- Famous Pharaohs: Tutankhamun, Ramses II, Khufu, Thutmose III
- Geography: The River Nile Was Essential for the Development of the Ancient Egyptian Civilization
- Religion: Pharaohs Were Believed to Be Descendants of the Gods
- Culture: Ancient Egyptian Culture Revolved around Religion
- Architecture: The Pyramids Are the Most Famous Legacy of Ancient Egypt
- History: Ancient Egypt Was Created by the Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt
- History: The Era of Ancient Egypt is Divided into 8 Periods or 31 Dynasties of Pharaohs
- Culture: The Ancient Egyptians’ Views on Clothing Were Quite Unusual
- Economy: Egyptians Used Coins only in the Last Century of Ancient Egypt
- Art: Ancient Egyptian Art Was Based on Symbolism
- Culture: Ancient Egyptians Used Hieroglyphs for Their Written Language
- Egyptians Invented Toothpaste
- Ancient Egyptians Had a Very Good Reason for Mummifying Their Dead
- Rameses the Great, the Most Famous Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, Adored Women
- The Best-Preserved Pharaoh Tomb Belongs to Pharaoh Tutankhamun
- The Majestic Tombs of Deceased Pharaohs Contained Some Unusual Items
- The Famous French Leader Napoleon Had Various Encounters with Ancient Pyramids
- Peasants’ Children in Ancient Egypt Had an Unusual Role
- One of the Best-Known Egyptian Symbols, the Ankh, Symbolises Life
- Ancient Egyptian Society Had a Strict Hierarchy with the Pharaoh at the Top
- Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs Were All Men – with One Exception
The River Nile Was Essential for the Development of the Ancient Egyptian Civilisation
Ancient Egypt facts reveal that the great Egyptian civilisation couldn’t have developed to such an extent if it were not for the River Nile. Due to the water from the Nile, the surrounding areas were very fertile, allowing the Egyptians to cultivate wheat, flex, papyrus and other crops that were central to their culture and economy.
The Nile, which was known as Ḥ’pī or Iteru, meaning simply “river”, did not only provide Egyptians with plenty of food, but also with plenty of trading materials that played a central role in establishing Egypt’s position in the region. Egyptians even believed that the Earth was flat and round, and that their mighty river flowed through its centre.
Pharaohs Were Believed to Be Descendants of the Gods
One of the most fascinating Ancient Egypt facts deals with its mysterious rulers, the Pharaohs, who were considered to be deities themselves in a certain way. Pharaohs were thus not just the kings of Ancient Egypt, but also believed to be the descendants of the gods, given their power to rule directly by the gods.
As such, they had complete power of the land and the people, being military commanders, heads of government, and important religious figures. But they ruled with the help of various advisors, of course, such as viziers, nomarchs and priests.
Ancient Egyptian Culture Revolved around Religion
Since Ancient Egyptian rulers were considered to be descendants of the gods, it is no big surprise that religion played an important role in the culture of Ancient Egypt.
Ancient Egyptians had more than 200 gods (and goddesses) and they were all frequently called upon in times of need. Most of the grandest Egyptian architecture was created for religious purposes, and all important rituals in the life of the Ancient Egyptian peoples were tied to religion.
Being a highly-religious civilisation, Ancient Egyptians spent a lot of time thinking about the afterlife and making various efforts in order to enable their souls to survive even after the death of the body.
The Pyramids Are the Most Famous Legacy of Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt facts show that the famous Egyptian pyramids are the best-known and most loved legacy of the Egyptian architecture of past millennia in the modern world. Spectacularly built, most pyramids served as tombs for pharaohs and their consorts. The first known built pyramid was the Pyramid of Djoser, built in the 27th century BC by vizier Imhotep for the pharaoh he had served – Djoser.
The most famous Egyptian pyramids are the Great Pyramids of Giza, among which the Pyramid of Keops is the largest and was considered to be the tallest man-made structure in the world for nearly 4,000 years! It is also one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one that has remained fairly intact throughout the centuries. Nowadays, around 130 Egyptian pyramids still exist; most of them are popular tourist sites.
Ancient Egypt Was Created by the Unification of Upper and Lower Egypt
Ancient Egypt facts reveal that prior to the existence of the mighty civilisation, Egypt was divided into two great kingdoms, known as Upper Egypt and the Lower Egypt.
Their names originated from their geographical location, but not in the way most of us might think, since Upper Egypt was located to the south of Lower Egypt. Their names derive from the flow of the Nile, which starts in the highlands of East Africa and flows northward to the Mediterranean Sea.
The two kingdoms were united around 3100 BC by Namer, the pharaoh who is nowadays sometimes identified with Menes, the first pharaoh of the Ancient Egyptian civilisation and the founder of the first dynasty of Egyptian rulers.
The Era of Ancient Egypt is Divided into 8 Periods or 31 Dynasties of Pharaohs
Ancient Egypt facts show that the great Egyptian civilisation lasted from around 3100 BC, when the kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt were united, until 332 BC, when once mighty Egypt was handed over to the famous Macedonian ruler Alexander the Great without a fight.
This era is typically divided by modern historians into 8 periods or 31 dynasties of pharaohs that ruled Egypt during these 8 periods: Early Dynastic Period (from 3100 BC to 2686 BC, ruled by the 1st and the 2nd Dynasty), Old Kingdom (from 2686 BC to 2181 BC, ruled by the 3rd to 6th Dynasties), First Intermediate Period (from 2181 BC to 2055 BC, ruled by the 7th to 11th Dynasties), Middle Kingdom (from 2055 BC to 1650 BC, ruled by the 12th and the 13th Dynasty), Second Intermediate Period (from 1650 BC to 1550 BC, ruled by the 14th to 17th Dynasties), New Kingdom (from 1550 BC to 1069 BC, ruled by the 18th to 20th Dynasties), Third Intermediate Period (from 1069 BC to 664 BC, ruled by the 21st to 25th Dynasties) and Late Period (from 664 BC to 332 BC, ruled by the 26th to 31st Dynasties).
After that, Alexander the Great ruled Egypt for a short while, and after his death in 323 BC, one of his generals, Ptolemy Soter, established himself as the new ruler of Egypt and started the Greek Ptolemaic Dynasty of Egypt, a member of which was also the famous Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra VII. After her death, the once mighty Egyptian civilisation became a province of the Roman Empire.
The Ancient Egyptians’ Views on Clothing Were Quite Unusual
Egyptian women wore dresses – a typical item of female clothing of the modern era as well – but Egyptian men also wore what is nowadays considered mostly female clothing – skirts.
As if it were not enough that ancient Egyptian men wore skirts, they also wore makeup, since Egyptians believed that it had healing powers (and it also protected the face from the extreme sun of the region).
Egyptian children were also fairly unusual by modern standards when it came to clothing – they wore no clothes until their teenage years. This was no doubt another consequence of the region’s hot climate.
Egyptians Used Coins only in the Last Century of Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt facts show that the mighty ancient civilisation started using coins only from the 5th century BC onwards, roughly 100 years before Alexander the Great became the ruler of its lands. Money was introduced to Egypt from abroad, but the earliest types of money used were not actually real coins, but rather standardised pieces of metal. Prior to that, Ancient Egyptians used a special barter system for centuries, which was based on standard sacks of grain and the unit deben, representing a weight of approximately 3 oz.
Prices for barter trading were fixed across the country and written in special lists that regulated trading. Workers were paid in grain, with the lowest-level workers earning about 400 lb of grain per month and higher-level workers, such as foremen, earning 550 lb of grain per month. Farmers traded their goods for other goods according to the valid trade ratios.
Ancient Egyptian Art Was Based on Symbolism
In contrast to most forms of modern art, Ancient Egyptian art served a functional purpose, usually in the political or religious sphere, and was as such created with precision and clarity to symbolise a certain aspect of life. Papyrus, wood and stone were the main materials used, creating various drawings, paintings, statues and carvings. Paints were obtained from rock, such as iron ore, copper ore, charcoal, limestone and others. Due to the fact that practically all Egyptian art followed these basic principles, its style barely changed during the long centuries of the great Egyptian civilisation.
Ancient Egyptians Used Hieroglyphs for Their Written Language
Ancient Egyptian written language was used even before the time of the great Ancient Egyptian civilisation, from around 3500 BC. The word means “sacred engraved letters”, which clearly show their basic religious purpose. Hieroglyphs were used on papyrus, wood and stone.
Hieroglyphs consist of three elements: phonetic glyphs, which function in a similar way to alphabets, logographs, which function as morphemes, and determinatives, which specify the meaning of both the previously mentioned elements. But as hieroglyphs are a very complex system (Egyptians used more than 700 of them), most people of the time couldn’t write in hieroglyphs, so two simpler scripts developed over the centuries: hieratic and demotic.
Hieroglyphs were used until the 4th century AD and countless attempts were made to decipher this mysterious ancient writing in the centuries that followed. It was not until the 1820s that they were fully deciphered by the French linguist Jean-François Champollion, who realised that hieroglyphs were a combination of phonetic and ideographic signs…
Egyptians Invented Toothpaste
Believe it or not, Ancient Egypt facts reveal that Egyptians used toothpaste a few thousand years ago and, even more fascinatingly – they invented it!
Ancient Egyptian toothpastes, of course, looked nothing like the modern toothpastes most of us use two or more times a day; it was actually a tooth powder, consisting of myrrh and three ingredients that most people nowadays wouldn’t want to have in their toothpastes: pumice, ashes of ox hoover and burnt eggshells. What about toothbrushes?
Ancient Egyptians didn’t use them, as the first toothbrushes appeared in China around 1600 BC, so they applied their tooth powder by rubbing it onto their teeth using their fingers.
Ancient Egyptians Had a Very Good Reason for Mummifying Their Dead
Although Ancient Egypt facts reveal that mummification in Ancient Egypt started as a natural phenomenon (since they buried their dead in shallow pit graves where the hot, dry sand of the desert dehydrated the bodies, thus creating the earliest mummies), Egyptians started deliberately mummifying bodies of the dead for religious purposes very soon after the rise of the great civilisation – around 3000 BC.
Afterlife was one of the central aspects of Ancient Egyptian religion, and mummification’s primary purpose was to preserve the bodies of the deceased to enable them to live well in the afterlife.
Mummification was usually the luxury of the wealthy and consisted of removing most organs from the body (although not the heart, since the Egyptians believed it to be the home of the soul), preserving the body in various minerals and oils, wrapping it in linen bandages, sometimes covering it with moulded plaster, and placing it to eternal rest in stone sarcophagi.
Pyramids, in which the bodies of Pharaohs were placed, served to protect the soul of the deceased, which remained in the heart.
Rameses the Great, the Most Famous Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, Adored Women
Historians know him as Rameses II, the third pharaoh of the 19th Dynasty of Egypt, which ruled Egypt throughout the 13th century BC and in the beginning of the 12th century BC. He is the most famous ruler of Ancient Egypt and is considered to be the most powerful pharaoh of the mighty Egyptian civilisation.
He had several great military successes, made Egypt rich from all the goods his soldiers brought back from conquered lands, founded many great cities, and built many great tombs and statues. But all these accomplishments of his are nothing compared to his success with women…
He had eight legal wives (among which the best-known is probably his first queen, Nefertari) and more than 100 concubines. Between them, these women gave birth to over 150 of Rameses’ sons and daughters. Surprisingly, the great pharaoh survived most of them, living to the age of around 90.
The Best-Preserved Pharaoh Tomb Belongs to Pharaoh Tutankhamun
Ancient Egypt facts reveal that the only almost completely intact tomb of an Ancient Egyptian pharaoh is that of pharaoh Tutankhamun, also known as King Tut, who ruled Egypt in the 14th century BC.
His tomb in the Valley of Kings, with scientific designation KV62, was discovered in 1922 by an English archeologist named Howard Carter. The tomb of the young pharaoh, who died at the age of 18, contained various treasures, including sculptures, chariots, boats, other mummies, chests, a precious funerary gold mask and many other valuable objects.
The reason why the tomb remained fairly intact is simple: it was built below workmen’s huts, which protected the tomb from major damage over the centuries.
The Majestic Tombs of Deceased Pharaohs Contained Some Unusual Items
In addition to the sarcophagus in which the body had been laid, and various belongings of the deceased ruler, the tombs of mighty Egyptian pharaohs contained a few very unusual things that you might not expect to find in such places.
First, were the mummified bodies of the pharaoh’s cats, as cats were considered sacred animals and had to accompany their owners on the journey to the afterlife.
Second were the pharaoh’s servants – in the early periods of Ancient Egypt, these were actually real servants, who were killed after their master had died. Later on, models of the pharaoh’s servants were used.
Thirdly, tombs also contained toilets – in case the mighty deceased ruler needed them in the next life…
The Famous French Leader Napoleon Had Various Encounters with Ancient Pyramids
Ancient Egypt facts reveal that the most famous of these took place during the so-called Battle of the Pyramids, which occurred in 1798 during the French invasion of Egypt.
French forces, led by Napoleon himself, scored an important victory that destroyed most of the Egyptian army. The battle was named by Napoleon himself after the pyramids that were visible on the horizon when the battle took place.
A popular legend about Napoleon even claims that Napoleon is responsible for the missing nose on the Great Sphinx of Giza – one of the most famous Egyptian monuments. Napoleon’s men allegedly shot off the sphinx’s nose during shooting practice.
However, Ancient Egypt facts reveal that this is not what really happened. The missing nose is actually a consequence of a deliberate attack of a Sufi fanatic about 500 years before Napoleon came along. Napoleon himself visited the Great Pyramid of Giza once, but came out visibly shaken and pale, claiming that he had seen a vision of his future inside.
Peasants’ Children in Ancient Egypt Had an Unusual Role
As if having to walk around naked until their teens was not enough, they were also forced into a very unusual role that helped their parents’ farming efforts – they served as scarecrows. As soon as peasants’ children could walk, they accompanied their parents to the fields.
Once there, there were given the task of patrolling the fields and scarring away any animals that could damage the produce. If they didn’t perform well, they could be severely disciplined by their parents or, even worse, the lord that owned them, their parents and their farm…
One of the Best-Known Egyptian Symbols, the Ankh, Symbolises Life
Ancient Egypt facts reveal that “the ankh” is also known by the names “the breath of life” and “the key of the Nile”, which clearly shows that it is closely connected to life.
More precisely, it is understood as a symbol of eternal life, so it is no surprise that it was often portrayed next to Egyptian gods and pharaohs, and placed next to mummies in tombs. Egyptians also frequently carried it as an amulet, believing it gave them strength and health.
In the 20th century, this ancient symbol of life became popular within New Age movements, symbolising tolerance of diversity or beliefs, similar to the Ancient Egyptian tolerance of religious pluralism.
Ancient Egyptian Society Had a Strict Hierarchy with the Pharaoh at the Top
The descendants of the gods and the carriers of their power – the pharaohs – were of course at the top of the hierarchy, followed by their most trusted advisors, viziers, and then other high priests and nobles.
Government officials, soldiers and scribes formed the next levels of the hierarchy, followed by merchants and artisans. Plain workers, farmers and slaves represented the bottom levels of Ancient Egyptian society.
Although social status was generally inherited, with sons and daughters of farmers becoming farmers themselves, for example, it was possible to climb to a higher level in the hierarchy. This could be done via education, which allowed children to learn a trade and become merchants, scribes or healers, or hold important positions in government.
Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs Were All Men – with One Exception
According to Ancient Egyptian beliefs, only men were “chosen” as representatives of the gods and as such named as pharaohs – the rulers of the Ancient Egyptian kingdoms. But there was one female pharaoh in the history of Ancient Egypt – can you guess who?
If you guessed Cleopatra, you guessed wrong! Cleopatra was indeed one of the last Pharaohs of Egypt, but her reign came after the period of Ancient Egypt. In the Ancient Egypt civilisation, which lasted from around 3000 BC to the 4th century BC, only one female is considered to have been a true pharaoh of Egypt:
Hatshepsut of the 18th Dynasty of Egypt, which ruled Egypt for 15 years during the 15th century BC. She is also considered the first great woman in history of whom we have knowledge nowadays…
Ancient Egypt Facts — Facts about Ancient Egypt Summary
Ancient Egypt is the term we commonly use to describe a mighty civilisation that ruled Northeastern Africa for millennia. Although the region that is nowadays known as Egypt was populated long before that, the Ancient Egypt era is considered to have started around 3100 BC, and lasted until 332 BC, when Egypt fell to Alexander the Great. Ancient Egyptian civilisation achieved many great accomplishments, among which the best-known are the pyramids. Ancient Egypt was ruled for millennia by powerful kings, believed to be the descendants of gods – the pharaohs. Religious beliefs were central to the life of Ancient Egyptians, who believed in the afterlife. In addition to religion, the Ancient Egyptian kingdoms were tightly connected to the River Nile, which enabled them to grow and trade crops, and consequently evolve into a powerful civilisation that shaped the history of the era.